The Workers in the Vineyard

Posted by Thaddaeus

Matthew 20: 1-16

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.  After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.  Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace,

and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’  So they went off.  And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise.  Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’  They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’  He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’  When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’  When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage.  So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.  And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us,
who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’  He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you.  Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  Take what is yours and go.  What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?  Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?  Are you envious because I am generous?’  Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”


Background:  This parable is found only in Matthew.   The owner of the vineyard is the Lord, who goes into the evening hiring workers and gives each a full day’s pay.  The vineyard is the Church.  The first workers represent the Jewish people.  In Judaism, a day is twelve hours long from 6:00A to 6:00P.  Nine o’clock symbolizes the period from Noah to Abraham.  Noon is the period from Abraham to Moses.  Three o’clock is the period from Moses to the first coming of Jesus.  Five o’clock is the period from the coming of the Lord to the end of the world.  The late-comers are the Gentiles.   The LORD is generous to some without being unjust to the others.  No one has a right to be offended because the LORD’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor our ways His ways.  Some scholars think this means the reward of eternal life for all who accept the invitation to grace, at whatever point in their lives, will be the same.  Will it?


The Workers in the Vineyard:  There are three categories of grace: sanctifying grace, actual grace and signal grace.  Sanctifying grace makes the soul holy and pleasing to God.  We are made right with God either for the first time through baptism, or after, through the sacrament of penance.  Actual grace is divine favor; unmerited help that God gives us to respond to His call.  God calls us when he knows we will come.  We obtain actual grace through prayer, good works and the sacraments; especially the Holy Eucharist.  Actual grace is used by the Holy Spirit, in connection with the gifts we receive at baptism, for the common good.  Signal grace is a special dispensation of extraordinary grace by the Blessed Mother.  It is an effect of Rosary meditation.  Most grace is undetectable, but signal grace heightens our awareness to little signs and wonders that either go unnoticed, or are characterized as mere coincidences.